A Look Back
2020 in the Rear View… and not a moment too soon
What a difference a decade makes, but in this case, what a difference a year makes.
On the cover of Ace’s January 2020 issue, we took a look at what was in the works for Lexington — a Vision 2020.
Many projects and programming were delayed or postponed by the pandemic, a few were mothballed, and some were shelved or canceled entirely. Others proceeded more or less on schedule.
It’s twelve months later, and it’s time to take a look back at what the roaring, maybe better described as the screaming 20s, actually had in store for Lexington.
Change is always the only constant in Lexington, and that’s especially true with Lexington’s ongoing construction projects.
More than a decade in the making, Lexington’s City Center was completed in 2020. City Center is now home to two hotels—Lexington Marriott City Center and Residence Inn—along with a rooftop sky bar and an Italian restaurant.
Downtown has never had a multiplex option for movies and… it still doesn’t… not yet anyway. The forthcoming 10-screen Krikorian movie theater dubbed LexLive, has not yet opened, but construction continued on the site at the corner of High and Broadway throughout the summer. As we wrap up the year in December, one downtown theater is set to debut, and the other dreadfully shuttered.
The iconic Kentucky Theatre on Main closed indefinitely in October, and no one knows how long the “intermission” will last.
Romany Road Kroger
Chevy Chasers rejoiced at the announcement that their long neighborhood nightmare of being suddenly and unwillingly plunged into a food desert could soon be over: The Webb Companies and Greer Companies have taken over the long-stagnant former Kroger location on Romany Road with plans to develop it into The Markets on Romany. The company has already filed a permit to demolish the vacant Kroger building and rebuild it as a new, bigger grocery store featuring a liquor store and a rooftop cafe. An ambitious timeline has been established with a goal of a 2021 opening.
Although much of Rupp Arena’s concert programming was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic (after Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers managed to deliver one last epic sold-out performance on a snowy winter night), Rupp construction continued on pace. It was only this past March that the new logo, Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center, was unveiled. In September, the final structural steel beam was placed on the new exhibit hall space at the $300 million convention center project. The remainder of the old convention center and ticket office was demolished.
“The Central Bank Center/Rupp Arena expansion and renovation project is nearing completion of phase 1 construction,” says Richard Polk, Jr, AIA, LEED AP, Principal at EOP Architects, the architecture and design firm behind the comprehensive renovation of Rupp Arena. ”The 100,000 square foot Exhibition Hall, club spaces and parking structure will be ready for use soon with the Ballroom, commercial kitchen and some CBC meeting rooms coming online in May 2021.”
As for what’s next, Polk says, “The CBC Pavilion, Main Street Entrance and balance of work on Rupp Arena will be ready in early 2022. The project team is excited to see this complex project come together as we know it will help transform and energize the west end of downtown Lexington.”
Tates Creek High School
Construction on the new Tates Creek High School began in June 2020, with plans for completion in 2022. The project was originally planned to be a renovation, but is now in progress as a completely new school to replace the existing school. Construction includes a new high school building featuring a tornado shelter in the basement and a roughly 9,000 square foot Fieldhouse for the softball and baseball program.
Town Branch Commons
Construction for Town Branch Commons kicked off in early 2020. Project manager Mike Sewell says it’s “progressing very well.”
He adds, “as most people are aware, the project construction uncovered some antiquities around the Triangle Park area…For the project team, that discovery further solidified why telling the story of the Town Branch as the roots of Lexington is so important.”
Town Branch Commons’ construction ran slightly ahead of schedule in 2020. Work continues on the project at Vine Street, Midland and Third into 2021 with a projected completion date of 2022.
The final leg of Legacy Trail was completed in 2020, putting the cherry on top of a project that began in 2007. The final, 1.5-mile segment of the 12-mile-long trail is located mainly in the Third and Fourth street corridor, now connecting Lexington’s East End to the Kentucky Horse Park.
As one trail finished, construction on other trails began. The new 2,1000-foot section of Citation Trail will connect an existing trail segment along Citation Boulevard to trails in Masterson Hills Park and Masterson Station Park. On the Hamburg side of town, work began on the much-anticipated 280-foot Brighton Rail Trail Bridge. It will connect rail trails east and west of Man O’ War Boulevard, spanning the road between Liquor Barn and the Brighton Place Shoppes.
MARKETS & MIXED USE
This year introduced many mixed use developments, from indoor public markets to adaptive reuse projects, all of which aimed to build community.
The historic Southeastern Greyhound Line building on the corner of North Limestone and Loudon Avenue sat vacant for nearly 20 years until Needham Properties bought the 65,000 square foot building to turn it into a mixed-use development space.
Greyline Station “is a living, breathing thing — much bigger than the actual building,” says Needham. “The whole is much greater than its parts.”
Julietta Market at Greyline Station consists of 58 vendor kiosks, each kiosk owner-operated and made up of small independent businesses.
Joining Lexington’s Pastry Trail along Midland Avenue— Martine’s, Frank’s Donuts, Spalding’s and a second DV8 Kitchen—is a new mixed-use development. The MET, named after its location on the corner of Midland and East Third, opened in October; bringing more housing, retail, and dining options to Lexington’s East End.
Phil Holoubek, president of Lexington’s Real Estate Company, which manages The MET says, “Look for The MET’s retailers to start opening early this spring. In addition to DV8 Kitchen, retailers at The MET include a coffee shop, a hair salon, a market, a nail salon, artist studios and an art gallery.”
He adds, “Every single retailer locating in The MET to date is a business that is at least partially either minority-owned or female-owned or both. And, all are locally owned.”
Kennedy Bookstore was demolished to make room for The Cornerstone, a six-story development with 900 new parking spots, on the corner of S. Limestone and Winslow Street.
“I describe it as our front porch to the community,” says Melody J. Flowers, UK’s Executive Director for Strategic Analysis & Policy.
The Cornerstone was developed for parking, but emerged as a gateway to innovation, linking the university with the community of Lexington. The new development features an innovation lab, collaborative working environments, a gamers’ lounge, and food hall. The space is open to both the UK community and the public.
ARTS & CULTURE
Known as Retrofitting the Retro, an 18-month art exhibit was installed along the Southland corridor, featuring eleven musically inspired sculptures by eight artists. The art exhibit is part of Rediscover Southland, a project aimed to reflect the neighborhood’s identity and emphasize Southland as a destination neighborhood.
In June, Breaking the Bronze Ceiling received a $20,000 Art Works Grant from the National Endowment for the project, “Stand.” The statue was installed in August, with an official unveiling and dedication held shortly after, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.
“Stand,” created by Arizona artist Barbara Grygutis, consists of five 20-foot-tall metal figures of suffragists at the corner of Vine and Mill streets in Lexington.
The best place to buy that little black dress since 1980, Bella Rose celebrated their 40th anniversary in June. In honor of over four decades in the business, Mayor Gorton declared June 13, 2020 as Bella Rose Day in celebration of the store’s four decades of success in Lexington.
Keeneland’s Spring Meet was canceled in April. A rare five-day Summer Meet was held in July without spectators.
Longtime Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason announced he would retire at the end of the year. Shannon Bishop Arvin became president-elect in September and will serve as Keeneland’s 8th President and CEO beginning in January.
Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale was held with extensive safety protocols. Soon after, the 2020 Fall Meet was held as scheduled in October, but remained closed to the public.
This year marked the first time since 1945 that the Kentucky Derby did not happen in May. This year’s Derby ran in September, but the postponement of the annual event brought a new wave of interest to the sport. “The 2020 Kentucky Derby was actually the most-watched sporting event since the Super Bowl,” says Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Drew Fleming.
The 2020 Breeders’ Cup was hosted as scheduled at Keeneland this fall, with no spectators on-site.
The good news for Lexington is that the Breeders’ Cup will return in November 2022. “We do believe that the Lexington community deserves a second chance to host and attend the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at its full potential, and so we are very excited to be bringing the event back to Keeneland in 2022,” said Fleming.
There was no March Madness this year, but Big Blue Madness still happened. The annual event was held at Memorial Coliseum rather than Rupp Arena, with no fans permitted.
The event quickly followed the announcement of Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell’s retirement. Mitchell, who is the winningest head coach in Kentucky women’s basketball history with over 300 victories, resigned as head coach of the Wildcats in November, citing health issues. During Big Blue Madness, Kyra Elzy made her first appearance as UK’s new interim head coach for 2020-2021.
This article also appears on page 10 and 11 of the December 2020 print edition of ace magazine.
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